First suspect case of BSE found in Czech Republic

Testing for BSE

The Czech Agriculture Ministry announced on Thursday that tests have uncovered the first suspected case of BSE, or mad cow disease, in the Czech Republic. The ministry, the Czech farming community and the general public are all now anxiously awaiting further test results, due out on Friday. Nick Carey has this report...

The suspected case of BSE was found during tests the Agriculture Ministry has been carrying out since the discovery of cases of mad cow disease in Germany. The results of the tests indicate the presence of prions, which are mutated proteins found in the brains of cows infected with BSE, in a six-year-old cow in the village of Dusejov in Northern Moravia, some 120 km south-east of Prague. This is the first positive test result in the Czech Republic, but Agriculture Ministry spokesman Hugo Roldan says further tests are underway to find out for sure if this really is BSE:

"In order to confirm or disprove this suspicion, the State Veterinary Authority of the Czech Republic ha sent the tested sample to a specialised laboratory in Germany and the result of that test will be at our disposal this Friday."

Scientists believe that BSE is linked to New Variant Creuztfeldt-Jakob Disease, which can be contracted by humans, in particular young people. Outbreaks of BSE in Great Britain and other EU countries have led to a ban on beef imports from the EU in many countries throughout the world. As sources in several countries have been quoted as saying that a ban will be applied to the Czech Republic if the results due on Friday prove positive, Hugo Roldan was keen to point out that this is just a suspected case, and that it could also prove negative:

"Well, it's just a suspicion, so it's too soon to say whether this suspicion is strong or slight. We have just one result. We really prefer to wait to have the result of the second test. The result could be positive or negative as well."

There is little doubt that if the second test does prove positive, this will have a sharp impact on the Czech economy. The Agriculture Ministry says that if the presence of BSE is proven, then it will carry out further tests on all cows aged over 30 months, and, as in Great Britain, the slaughter of large numbers of livestock cannot be ruled out. Beef exports will also be hit, and there is general concern that the Czech economy, unlike that of the EU member states, will be ill prepared to handle an outbreak of mad cow disease. Agriculture Ministry spokesman Hugo Roldan admits that, yes, it would have a negative impact, but says it is still too early to speculate:

"Well, of course if the case is confirmed we cannot exclude some negative effects as has been seen in European countries where BSE has appeared. But, the other variant is also possible, where we get a negative result and then, in that case, our situation will be the same as yesterday. So, before we have this second result it is still too early to speculate about what will happen."